A lot of us who enjoy traveling are sitting at home – or, if you’re a digital nomad, in a hotel or on a friend’s sofa – wishing desperately that this pandemic would end so we can hit the road again.
I know I am. I am travel-addicted and my “itchy feet” need scratching, yet here I am at my computer at home instead of enjoying a fam trip after a travel conference in Sicily. Not only was I planning to attend the conference; I was lined up to be a co-presenter. How cool would that have been?
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The fact that the weather here in the Netherlands sucks, to use the vernacular, doesn’t help. Rain, wind, an occasional fleeting tease of sunshine … Raindrops are really pretty when the setting sun’s shining on them, but not when you’re standing outside and the wind is making your umbrella completely useless.
Other people have written about lots of things to do if you’re stuck in quarantine; I particularly like the attitude embedded in this article.
Yes, you can fill your time with giving your home a good spring cleaning or binging on a Netflix series, but, frankly, for me, both are a bit depressing and don’t really deal with a bad case of wanderlust directly.
If you’re travel-addicted like me, though, there are a few things you can do at home to deal with what feels almost like a physical need to travel.
1. Dream: be an armchair traveler.
Lots of people can’t travel, even when there’s no COVID-19 virus shutting all human interaction down. They are full-time carers for loved ones, or they are physically unable to travel, or they just can’t afford it, or they get very little vacation time – I’m looking at you, USA – and end up spending it visiting the in-laws year after year. There are probably a hundred different possible reasons why people can’t travel.
There are others who don’t like to travel. What I mean is that, while they’re interested in learning how other people live and what other environments look like, they don’t like physically traveling. They experience it as stressful and uncomfortable and would Just. Rather. Not.
Both of these categories often become “armchair travelers.” They read, in other words, about travel or, alternatively, watch travel programs or videos.
(If you’re wondering how I could possibly know about this, it’s because some of my more loyal readers are armchair travelers. They tell me they enjoy traveling vicariously through what I write. Hearing that makes me feel good every time!)
We travel addicts can do the same things they do:
Read travel blogs
There are thousands of travel blogs online, of varying quality. Just search the place you want to know about, skim down past the first few listings (things like Tripadvisor and Lonely Planet and Wikipedia) and take a look at a blog or two. If it’s fluff, click away and try another. I assure you you’ll find good reading on many blogs and often, good photography too.
Here are a few of my favorites, but it’s hard to choose which to list, so don’t limit yourself to this list. And, of course, you should start right here on Rachel’s Ruminations!
- Maptia (independent, honest storytelling and amazing photography)
- Travel past 50 (Don’t write this off just because you’re under 50. It’s a well-written, intelligent travel blog.)
- How not to travel like a basic bitch (Very much the contrarian view of travel, and very pointed!
- PassingThru (Also strong, intelligent writing)
- Just Go Places (travel with children)
- The Blog Abroad (philosophical at times, but also lots of practical info)
- The Travel Episodes (“scrollytelling”: a combination of text, photos and videos)
- Anywhere We Roam (Good writing, pretty pictures)
- Notes from the Road (similar to Anywhere We Roam)
You’ll find, if you’re as travel-addicted as I am, that the hours will fly by, as reading one article leads you to the next … which leads you to the next … and so on.
There are many more I could recommend, but these are the ones that come to mind right now. I’ll add more as I think of them or discover them.
Read travel-related books.
Paul Theroux and Bill Bryson are the first that occur for me, but there are plenty of others. You don’t even need to leave home: download books to your Kindle, if you have one, or to your phone or computer, if you don’t.
Here’s a good list from another blogger: 50 best travel books of all time.
Look at gorgeous photography.
Instagram is probably the easiest way to find photos of places. Just type #nameofplace in the search box and you’ll find plenty of good photos. Or look at Lola Akinmade’s site for some amazing images or, of course, National Geographic’s image collection.
Listen to podcasts.
Watch travel videos.
This is not something I do a lot, but here are some good ones:
- Rick Steves has a YouTube travel channel that’s quite popular and focuses on Europe.
- The British Museum’s channel has lots of quality videos that are perfect for history nerds like me.
- National Geographic, of course. (How many of us first got turned on to travel through National Geographics?)
- 2foodtrippers combines food and travel. Don’t watch if you’re hungry!
- Just go Places: Like her blog, the videos focus on travel with children.
- A Wanderlust for Life: fun short travel videos
- Plush Travel: short, to-the-point travel videos
Watch road trip movies.
Some movies are specifically about travel, often road trips.
- The classic is Easy Rider, of course.
- Into the Wild has become a classic of sorts too.
- I haven’t seen The Motorcycle Diaries, but it sounds like it fits the bill.
- On the Road, based on Jack Kerouac’s classic, is also one I haven’t seen, but is centered around a cross-country road trip.
- Rain Man is a good road trip film.
- So is Thelma and Louise, but darker.
- If it’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium is a very dated 1969 screwball comedy, but I remember it as very funny.
There are plenty more; just google “road trip films.” Most of these are set in the US, so if you know any good road trip films that involve travel elsewhere, add a comment below.
Alternatively, try fellow travel blogger Sue Reddel’s list of Best Ever Food and Travel Movies.
Watch movies set in other places.
There are lots I could add to this list, but here are just a few to start you off:
- The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel made me want to head right to India.
- Tampopo and My Neighbor Totoro both made me want to go see Japan.
- It’s not a movie, but the series Death in Paradise is why I chose Guadeloupe for my solo Caribbean trip.
- To see the Rocky Mountains, try A River Runs Through It.
- The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was mostly filmed in Iceland.
Here’s a much more complete list by a fellow travel blogger, Cindy McCain, including suggestions from other travel bloggers: 70 Books, Movies, TV Series for Escape Now and After Quarantine.
2. Plan for future travel
This pandemic will not last forever. By some forecasts it could end this spring, or maybe it will take longer.
Either way, you could be planning your trip of a lifetime while you wait. I don’t know about you, but this travel-addicted blogger starts planning the next trip as soon as the last one is over.
- Do your dreaming first to narrow down which place you’d most like to go. This article might help you choose a destination.
- Read everything you can about the place.
- Consult blogs about budgeting for that place, if money is an issue.
- Go ahead and book flights. Most of the more established airlines are offering free rebooking because they really need people to book flights now, and the prices tend to be low. Read the small print carefully, of course, before you book, to make sure you’d get a refund if you have to cancel.
- Get “cancel for any reason” travel insurance, just in case. Again, read the small print to make sure it’ll include COVID-19 related cancelations.
- Plan your itinerary. I usually do this by making a list of all the things I’d like to see, then starring the ones that I absolutely can’t miss.
- Next, I use Google Maps’ “My places” function to add all of the places to a map. From this, I can see which are feasible and start figuring out what route I’ll take to get from one to the other. Save the map and download it to your phone and/or print it out.
- Once I have my itinerary, I book the hotels. That takes time when I’m not in a hurry: I enjoy looking at the pictures, comparing prices and trying to picture myself in a given place. Because of the pandemic, I’d make sure only to book hotels that have a lenient cancellation policy. Many on Booking.com allow cancellations up to a week before, sometimes even the day before.
- Later, I can book in-country transportation as needed, whether that means a rental car or train tickets or whatever. These can usually be booked fairly last minute.
- I also might need to book tickets for attractions. Places like, for example, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam or the Dali Theatre-Museum in Figueres, Spain need to be booked well ahead. So do Broadway shows in New York or boat trips in many places. Use Tiqets or GetYourGuide to book many sights and attractions around the world. Again, read the small print about cancellations!
If you take your time to choose your destination and then really immerse yourself in the planning, this could fill up several weeks of your formal or informal quarantine. And it’s fun to do!
My hope – everyone’s hope, I assume – is that by the time you’re ready to travel, the world will be ready for you again.
If you’re like me, you have thousands of photos from past travel. The older ones – if you pre-date digital cameras, like I do – are on paper, stuffed in a box or falling out of old photo albums. The newer ones are on your computer – and, yes, they can all disappear, like all of my pre-2015 photos did when a network drive died.
Go through the older paper ones first. Enjoy the memories, but it’s also a good idea to take a picture of each one, just in case.
Next, look through the digital ones. Before you do anything else, back them all up onto a separate external hard drive and/or a USB stick and/or a cloud file, if you haven’t already. I’ve learned that the hard way.
Organize your digital photos in some way into folders – I use country files with a sub-file for each trip and/or city and/or date and/or sight. It’s useful to rename the photos in some way that will help you find them again, instead of the random numbers your camera assigns. Delete the bad ones when you have a better version of the same object or view.
A tip: if you right-click on a photo and scroll down to “file info” or “properties,” it will tell you when the photo was taken.
If you want to take this further, make yourself a photo album (or two or three or…) from your digital photos. I won’t make a recommendation of which company to do this with because I haven’t done it yet myself. I’ve seen photo albums others have made, though, and they can be really high-quality hard or soft-bound books with glossy photos. Using the website of whatever company you choose, you select your best photos, arrange them yourself on-screen, add captions, and so on. Once you’ve finished and paid, they’ll send you a beautiful memory book.
Do the same thing with the photos you took of your printed pictures, while you’re at it. The memory book(s) will take far less space than those old photo albums that are falling apart. You can throw the album out and save the photos in a box somewhere out of sight.
I hope these three ideas are of some help in this trying time. Much as all of us travel addicts are suffering withdrawal right now, we’re incredibly fortunate – privileged – to do all the traveling we do. A few weeks or months of enforced motionlessness won’t hurt us. Dreaming, planning and reminiscing will help pass the time until our next fix.
Do you have other suggestions for the travel-addicted in your life? I’d like to hear it: add a comment below! And please share this article with them!